Believe it or not, personal competence is actually like a muscle. If you haven’t been to a gym before and you start lifting weights, what do you think will happen?
Well, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that in the morning, you’re not going to feel all that well. It seems like your muscles are aching all over the place. It’s like they’re screaming at you to stop working out.
You put a tremendous amount of pressure on muscles that are not used to that stress and pressure. What do you think will happen? That’s right, a lot of pain. The secret here is that you must work through the pain.
A lot of people are under the impression that if their body is telling them that it’s in pain that this is their signal to stop. This is the most common mistake rookies make. When you listen to your body, you’re basically listening to that part of yourself that is telling you to take it easy. You’re listening to that part of yourself that does not want to be stressed, confronted and challenged.
What do you think it will ask for? That’s right. It will ask for you to take it easy. It will ask you to do something else that is more pleasurable. It’s going to ask you to just lay off anything that may involve discomfort, inconvenience or sacrifice.
But it turns out that if you want to make the pain go away, you go to the gym and lift more weights. Sure, it feels like murder the next day, but if you keep going, the pain evaporates. It turns out that the pain is temporary. It’s the small price you pay to achieve higher levels of muscle discipline and strength.
The same applies to your competence. If you want to just focus on your current level of expertise and knowledge, you’re not going to improve. You’re not going to be curious about what else is out there. You’re not going to challenge what you think you know. You’re not going to break things apart and try to put them back together and figure out how to connect the dots and see the big patterns.
You’re not going to achieve any of that. Those are the things that will take your knowledge to the next level. Those are the things that will enable you to become a greater expert and authority in whatever field you’re in.
Unfortunately, a lot of people think that they can coast or take it easy based on their current level of expertise. They end up running away from challenges. They focus on the things they know. They focus on the “tried and proven.”
Unfortunately, the more they do this, the less competent they become because the value of their knowledge erodes over time. Also, if you don’t want to challenge yourself, chances are you’re not going to figure out better ways to articulate what you already know.